As It Happens

Who is Rachel Mitchell, the Republican lawyer hired to question Christine Blasey Ford?

Journalist Joseph Reaves says the Arizona prosecutor's job is to "shield the Republicans on the committee from having to ask those tough questions."

Arizona sex crimes prosecutor to question both Ford and Brett Kavanaugh

In this Oct. 27, 2004, photo, Rachel Mitchell makes an opening statement in the trial of Karl LeClaire at court in Mesa, Ariz. (Jack Kurtz/the Arizona Republic via AP)

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When Christine Blasey Ford testifies against her alleged attacker Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, she won't face any questions from Republican senators. 

Instead, the all-male Republican members of the judiciary committee have hired Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question the Palo Alto University psychology professor about her allegations that Kavanaugh pinned her down at a party when they were in high school, held his hand over her mouth and tried to strip off her clothes.

Mitchell, the chief of the Special Victims Division of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix, will also question Kavanaugh.

Ford's story is one of three allegations of sexual misconduct made against the U.S. Supreme Court nominee dating back to his time in high school and university. 

Joseph Reaves, a retired reporter with the Arizona Republic who has watched Mitchell aggressively prosecute sex offenders, told As It Happens host Carol Off he was "just stunned" she took the job. 

Here is some of what he had to say.

What did you think when you learned that Rachel Mitchell had been chosen to question Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh?

I was having dinner with my wife and watching television when the name came over and I grabbed my head and said, "Oh my God, Rachel?"

And the reason I reacted that way is because I had known her when I was covering the sexual abuse trials here in Phoenix of the Catholic church, and Rachel was incredibly empathetic to the sexual abuse victims. She would hug them and console them and talk them through the judicial process, and her empathy really struck me.

When I heard that she was going to be the person questioning a sex abuse victim for the Republican Party, I was just stunned.

Brett Kavanaugh has denied all three accusations of sexual misconduct. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Why do you think the Republicans chose her?

She has 26 years in the field. She is a Republican, although in all the time I knew her, I never saw any overt political activity. ... Obviously, they want a woman to be their face. 

How do you think that Rachel Mitchell will approach questioning her?

I think she will be incredibly tough. But at the same time, as I've mentioned, she does have an empathy for sex abuse victims and I think she will be on her best behaviour.

Rachel Mitchell is also going to question Brett Kavanaugh. How do you think that's going to go?

I think she's going to be very tough on both of them. She is a pointed questioner.

In the past, she's had sex abuse cases that she has been, I believe, fairly convinced that the victim was victimized but did not bring the case to trial because of discrepancies in timelines and other such things that would have hindered a successful prosecution.

So I think she's going to be very, very focused on timelines for both sides of the story. And I think that will be one of the key things to watch tomorrow.

She's not seeking prosecution here. So how does that change things for her?

I don't know how it changes things. As I said at the beginning, I am stunned that she even took this case. And so I don't know what the outcome is for her other than to protect the Republicans on the committee from having to ask tough questions themselves.

People gather in front of New York City Hall on Monday as part of the NYC Stands With Survivors Rally. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

They're putting her forward as some someone who's independent, who's going to be doing this in a professional way. But do you think that she is, in the end, working for the Republicans?​

They are paying her way, yes.

What does that tell you? 

That tells me she has a job to do and she's very good at the job she does, and I think she will do the job that the Republican men on that committee don't want to do and she'll do it well for them.

I think basically her job is to shield the Republicans on the committee from having to ask those tough questions and be seen for what they are — you know, 11 white men trying to attack a woman who has come forward with sexual abuse allegations.- Joseph Reaves, Arizona journalist 

What results do you think that will bring?

I think the Republicans on the committee will say that Judge Kavanaugh has proved his innocence, and the Democrats will say the opposite, and we will be just about where we are right now.

And is that her job, to get us to that point by the end of tomorrow? Where there's nothing conclusive, where it's just, well, he said, she said and let's just move on let's get the vote done?

I think basically her job is to shield the Republicans on the committee from having to ask those tough questions and be seen for what they are — you know, 11 white men trying to attack a woman who has come forward with sexual abuse allegations.

They don't want to do their questioning. So Rachel's sole job is to ask the questions that won't look politically insensitive coming from a woman.

And to give the appearance that there has been a real inquiry.

And to give the appearance there has been a real inquiry, yes.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 


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